By Sweta Patel

Most startups and small business owners have small pockets when it comes to marketing. It’s ironic how in most cases they spend so much time and money on the actual product itself and then they don’t end up marketing it.

In reality, marketing is the most important aspect of any startup or small business. There has to be a clear plan and message to deliver to the right audience. Now don’t get me wrong, most business owners have to be frugal in the beginning in order to get their business going. I am constantly approached by startups and small business owners who want to acquire more customers on a $0 budget. The time available to help these business owners is very limited in my schedule book. Here is the approach I would take if I were just getting started but I wanted to market big:

San Diego-based marketing entrepreneur Sweta Patel.

Piggybacking Will Do The Work for You

There are many benefits to being apart of a network that is thriving. For example, StumbleUpon knew if they created a solution for a small pain point they would start gaining users left and right. What did they do? They created a plug-in for Firefox and it was one of the browser’s first plug-ins. Even though at the time Stumbleupon had an unfair advantage in the market they were able to solve a pain point for another network. What small problem can you solve? Can you add value to another network?

Today we have Pinterest using the “Pin It Forward” feature which allows bloggers to share pins even further and on other networks. If your feature is sharable then it will create more value to other businesses and consumers, which equates to more users.

Best Practice: Go to your favorite platform and make a list of all the problems you see. Then make a list of solutions. Now execute the most feasible solution and present it to the consumers of the site.

Permalinks Make It Shareable

The talk in town is that content is king, however anything that is written needs a market of consumers or readers. Permalinks make it feasible to distribute content anywhere and they make content more discoverable. This was the secret behind Quora’s platform and how they made their content SEO-friendly and searchable at the same time. Twitter does the same thing by creating permalinks at every point of contribution. Nowadays anyone can become a publisher, so make sure that you are maximizing this aspect in terms of your biggest consumer base.

Best Practice: Take a look at each point where a user can contribute on the platform and see if you can create a permalink to maximize searchability.

Create a Ruckus!

Pick a topic that is highly controversial in the marketplace right now. For example, let’s say that your target market is housewives between the ages of 30 and 50. Perhaps there is a rumor on the street that Oprah might leave her show. Now put two and two together. We know that housewives love watching Oprah. Take that information and create platform for all the housewives to connect and debate about it. This is the kind of hype that will allow others to participate and create momentum for you.

Best Practice: Create a blog post with an opposing view of a “trending topic,” then write your opinion. Afterward create a hashtag for it and receive at least 20 to 30 comments on it. Now watch the rest of the people enter the battle zone and start debating!

Micro-Markets Are Golden

Think about it…Facebook started with Harvard. Yelp started with the local crowd in San Francisco. And LinkedIn emerged from the venture-capital community in Silicon Valley. This is the exact reason why micro-markets rock. If it doesn’t work out in one small place, what makes you think the world is going to love the idea? Most startups begin by testing in smaller markets and then grow into large franchises when things begin to move.

Best Practice: Pick a place to launch and make sure everyone is involved. The best way to pre-launch an idea is through focus groups to find out what resonates with your target segment and then venture beyond.

Producer-to-Consumer Model

The best way to get your product or service out there is to be the creator of a service with which producers bring in the consumers. For example, SurveyMonkey only has to worry about one side of the market and that is to get producers to use their platform. Then consumers do the rest. Another great example is Ning and their focus around community building. They bring in the producers who build their online networks and promote it to their audiences.

Best Practice: Create a platform where there are no worries about both sides of the market. Make sure this is a freemium model to ensure the viral effect from the free version and revenue from the paid tier.

What was your favorite tip? Comment below!

Sweta Patel is a San Diego-based marketing entrepreneur whose company is Global Marketing Tactics.